09 Feb In the face of CORONAVIRUS: Triumph over the Real Trials Amidst Us
<Jn 20:19-21; Heb 11:1-3,6,13-16>
Today is probably the biggest challenge our church has faced in our seventeen years since we started. For some brothers and sisters who do not know, our church has so far had five cases of the Wuhan coronavirus. Maybe at this time, the whole country will pay attention to our church. Soon we will also face the inquiries of family members or relatives and friends. Also, one of our sisters who is infected is now still in the intensive care unit, and still considered to be in a critical stage. When trials are so near us, suffering is not a matter of mere paper talk, how do we face suffering at such times? Of course, no one hopes that bad things will come upon themselves, let alone having to bear the burden of fear and stress. Especially in our comfortable society in Singapore, believers do not want to land into danger. When we watch the epidemic of the Wuhan Coronavirus in China continuing to develop every day, with Singapore having about 40 medical cases, we generally just view this problem from a distance. But when five of these 40 cases occurred among us, then our fears are no longer just general fears. Perhaps, parents are immediately worried about their children, or people who are having a slight cold now are worried about themselves or their families, while others are at a loss of what to do. These psychological battles are very real, and it also brings out the natural reactions of humans. But we need to know that in such a situation we cannot blame anyone. Can we point the problem to any of our brethren from China at this time? Or is it because of anxiety that is causing us play “the blame game” on our brethren who are sick among us? We must know that these are definitely not teachings of the Lord.
The promise of the Lord tells us: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” <Romans 8:28>. When the Israelites were taken captive by Babylon, many families were torn apart, their wives and children were separated, and the temple was destroyed. God sent the prophet Jeremiah to tell them, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We all know clearly the sufferings of the early church believers, but they were never disheartened by trials, or blaming others. If this suffering is permitted by the Lord, can we steer from it? Can we blame anyone? Indeed, blessed are those who can pray for the Lord’s church at this time! Not only do they belong to the kingdom of Heaven, but they also seek God’s glory in all things. Let us think through: Which church of the Lord did not grow up through adversity? In fact, it is in such a tribulation that we know although we live in the world, we do not belong to the world. We can also confirm God’s support in every affliction. We will also understand that loving brethren and the church entails challenges and sacrifices. In fact, as our church continues to reach out to more broken people and serve more communities or churches around the world, evil forces of powers will come to attack us. However, we must truly believe that with God’s help, we will see that God Himself accomplishes greater things in our individual lives. Therefore, everyone, please stand firm in your positions, be watchful and devote ourselves to prayers. We always carry around in us the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in us <2 Corinthians 4:10>. At this time, let us also continue to pray and intercede for the various churches, and hope that other churches will continue their services and meetings, if they can. Our test is nothing compared to what the early church believers suffered, but it is ultimately still a test. Let us be thankful for being worthy to go through this trial together.
Therefore, everyone, please stand firm in your positions, be watchful and devote ourselves to prayers.
Let us first use the faith given by the Lord to recognize and resist fear
First, confirm the truth of the Lord, personally, drawing near us.
We all know that fear comes from the kingdom of darkness, and fear cannot accomplish the things of God’s kingdom. However, no one wants to be fearful, but when certain bad circumstances come, the spirit which makes man fearful will be stirred up instantly, such that the person will be affected by all kinds of insinuations of fear. But we see that when the disciples were in fear, our Lord drew personally to them.
Fear cannot accomplish the things of God’s kingdom.
The Lord first said, “Peace be with you!” The Lord first gives us peace. This also explains why our hearts are kept these few days. It is not that we ourselves are full of faith, but it is He who draws near to us, so that our hearts are guarded. Moreover, the Lord showed the disciples His hands and side. These represent how the Lord suffered for all saints, and then He wished them peace once again. Finally, the Lord sent them to evangelize. Therefore, we know that (1) when there is no peace; (2) when we have faith that does not know suffering; (3) when we are not directed towards evangelism, all these do not come from faith.
Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance (evidence) about what we do not see. <Hebrews 11:1-3>
Therefore, in a sinful world, only faith can make us victorious. This is like what Mark 16:17-18 says, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” Here, faith brings about the power to drive out demons, preach the word, resist viruses, and intercede for others. Therefore, we know that the impact of faith is huge, and it is beyond the circumstances and limitations of the ordinary person. But what is faith?
In the current epidemic, if we totally ignore what happens in the news, or as the epidemic develops day by day, we do not further test and approve God’s perfect will or know how to act in ways to love God and love men, then that is certainly not the expression of faith. Therefore, we know that faith is not blind faith, nor is it superstitious belief, nor baseless faith. But faith is surely built on the foundation of God’s word. Because God’s word is spirit and life <Jn 6:63>. Only when humans have correct understanding of God’s word, true faith can then develop in their hearts. But then, with regard to the spirit, how do we know what is true faith? <Hebrews 11:1>: Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance (evidence) about what we do not see. This “evidence” is not what everybody can see, but only the one who believes. Example: When everyone is afraid but some people see the unique help and guidance of God (just like we can see a 3D image in a picture, but others cannot see).
Only when humans have correct understanding of God’s word, true faith can then develop in their hearts.
This is like what <Hebrews 11:3> says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command.” This world was created by God’s word, but we cannot see the word which created the world, yet we can see the created world. This is like in suffering, we cannot see the God who practically helps us, but we can see the peace and safety of brethren. Therefore, with regard to the “confidence” in what we hope for, that confidence is the peace and joy in human hearts, which are not given by the world. Only when man looks to the invisible Lord, then such peaceful confidence will come upon his heart. Thus, when we talk about matters of faith, that is not a kind of empty thoughts, nor is it taking a risk now, but it is the confidence enjoyed in the heart and the evidences seen by the eye.
How to use faith to face the developing epidemic?
Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
What would be the acts of faith of someone with faith? Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” From this verse, we know that those with true faith will continue to seek the Lord. Thus, in our present epidemic, we must understand what true faith is, and must ask the Lord to increase our faith. But here, we should also seek the Lord’s will by faith. Seeking the Lord’s will is certainly not compromising, but we must ask some practical questions, which is: Should we obey the current suggestions offered by the country? If the epidemic worsens, such that even many offices and schools are starting to close, what should the church do? If there are carriers among us, how should we react? How about the regulations to quarantine and wear mask? We must be full of faith to consider these. From the Bible, we will know that faith will surely bring us to love <2 Th 1:3>, but how is it practically? Sometimes, when we are far from the problem, we can only engage in mere talk on paper, but when this epidemic gets worse, and those whom we love are also infected by the virus, we must face this with true faith.
A few principles to grasp
① When such epidemic comes, listen to the broad directives of the authorities – When a country is in crisis, we listen to the words of the authorities. Why? Because the authorities possess the most information. If we listen to the news and opinions of the masses, the country will be even more chaotic. However, this is after all a broad direction. In each individual’s circumstances, we still have to seek the Lord’s will. Especially, so as the country will not understand spiritual matters, thus it will not understand the importance of gathering. Believers still have to gather as much as possible, encouraging one another, and confirming the wide, long, high and deep love of the Lord.
② As the epidemic develops, we must be careful to test and approve – Of course, we must not be risk-takers, but we must understand that the epidemic will fluctuate the feelings in people’s hearts. Furthermore, the development of the epidemic is also one of the works of God. Therefore, if there are only forty cases in Singapore, we should not stop meetings, and should not over-magnify information and create panic. If we look at the advisory yesterday about changing the DORSCON level from yellow to orange, we will see the phenomenon of everyone rushing to purchase daily necessities. Some churches even stop their weekly meetings. If the epidemic becomes like the extent of the Wuhan and Hubei regions, then everyone should be careful. Yet, being careful does not mean losing one’s mind on things. We, Christians, must always understand that in the greatest crisis, the human nature that Lord has placed in us, is to make us love God and men. This is like right now, the churches in China are also giving out masks, and the government is not stopping the media from reporting this. And for this current situation of our church and the epidemic, although we are not told to do so, we take the initiative to stop our meetings for two weeks, so as not to let the masses or people of weaker faith panic, such that two weeks later, we can gather as per normal. However, in these two weeks, we must not only focus on our own situation, but should all the more focus on the situation in China.
We, Christians, must always understand that in the greatest crisis, the human nature that Lord has placed in us, is to make us love God and men.
③ Faith is personal, but it can only grow with trials – Many people say that faith is very personal. But if we only have such beliefs, the Bible will not keep challenging our faith. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Trials made us constantly seek the Lord in the trying moments, because the Lord is the source of faith. If a person has no trials, there will be no pressing need for him to seek the Lord, thus his faith cannot grow practically. Hence, when we receive some news on the epidemic each day, or updates on our brethren, then will we constantly seek the Lord, and develop patience in the process.
True faith continues to lead us to a heart of sojourner
”They were still living by faith when they died” <Hebrews 11:13>
① The sojourners did not seek faith only when they were dying, but they were “living by faith when they died”. Therefore, those who said they want to accept the Lord just before they die will never enter this list of people with great faith
② Although they had faith, they still experienced the death in the body. Therefore, we cannot wrongly see faith as “once you believe, there will no longer be problems.” This is the wrong teachings of the word-faith movement.
③ Their faith was not only preserved, and it was made simpler. This faith creates a heart of a sojourner. Their true longing was for their eternal home, not the glory, success, wealth and blessings on earth.
Faith must ultimately make us yearn for the more beautiful home
Let us think through: If there is no outbreak of the virus, what will we worry about? We will be worrying about our children’s studies, our career prospects, or all kinds of other worries in the world. However, when we experience this situation first-hand, we realise how real spiritual blessings are. In our world now, we cannot eradicate all kinds of viruses, we cannot have full righteousness, we cannot make others understand our most genuine weaknesses. In this world that only believes in science and natural law, we believers will feel lonely. However, once life situation is better, our old habits will emerge again. We start to be theoretical in our faith. Only when we are constantly tested, can we preserve that true and pure faith. Therefore, if our life is comfortable, we must not be satisfied in this comfort. On the contrary, we must challenge ourselves to spread the gospel. Even when there are trials, all the more we must gather, and accomplish all things according to His power that is at work within us, more than what we ask or imagine.
The path of faith makes God unashamed to be called our God
We often hear that we must not be ashamed of the gospel, but we hardly hear about how God is not ashamed to be called our God. This is an intriguing way of saying that God will refine our lives till He is not ashamed of us. This also means that the home that God prepared for us and our yearning for it is aligned. If a believer does not desire to return to the glorious home, that means he does not belong to the place or he does not value the glorious beauty of the home. Why does he not value the home? Because his heart is encumbered by the things on earth.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, trials will always come with this path of faith, so that our faith can reach that glorious state to exalt Christ in our lives. God is doing this thing among us now. We must not be depressed, or succumb to fear. Instead, we must give thanks, and anticipate the good work God is doing in our lives. God bless.